I exited the Hawker Jet into the expected airport heat of the Las Vegas desert. The sun was blazing but the biting winter wind quickly eliminated any thought of sitting by the swimming pool. Laurie and I had accompanied the entire Kircher family to Las Vegas to see their father and husband inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame. This is an honor that he should have received 40 years ago.
And this is why:
I first met Everett Kircher in the spring of 1948 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Pappy Rogers, the general manager of Sun Valley, had decided to sell the 12-year-old Dollar Mountain chairlift. It was the first one ever built anywhere in the world and its 12-year-old wooden towers and metal sheaves were going to be torn down and moved to Michigan by Everett.
Pappy Rogers wanted $5,000 for the lift but Everett beat him down to $4,800 and he and his ski school director Victor Gottschalk then started taking it apart bolt by bolt. They eventually loaded several dozen loads of ski lift stuff in nearby Ketchum onto a Union Pacific freight car. Once it got to Michigan they would put it up on a mountain that Everett had bought from a farmer for $1 because it was too steep to grow potatoes on.
Eight months later in December of 1948, Boyne Mountain opened with large billboard signs proclaiming that it was the highest mountain in Michigan rising to an altitude of 410 feet. In 1954 when Everett hired Stein Eriksen to run his ski school, big-time skiing had arrived in the Midwest.
By then, the single chairlift had been converted to a double and during its long life, it was converted into a triple, then a quad chairlift and finally into the first six-passenger chairlift in the world. Today that six-passenger lift is being driven by the same drive shaft and crown gears that drove that original 1936 Sun Valley chairlift.
In about 1956 Everett was fishing in Tennessee when he discovered the town of Gatlinburg and decided to lease the nearby mountain. He then bought his second antique chairlift from the Sugar Bowl in California for $11,000, moved it to Tennessee and started running it as soon as Boyne closed for the winter for $5 a ride. This gave Everett a 12-month source of income that no other ski resort in America has ever had. Since then his four children – Steve, John, Amy, and Kathy – have taken over running the ski and golf business. They have expanded Boyne Mountain ownership into other ski resorts making it the largest family held ski resort company in America. They own and operate Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands, Gatlinburg Tennessee, Crystal Mountain, Snoqualmie Summit, Alpental, and Hyak in Washington, Brighton in Utah, Cypress Bowl in British Columbia, Big Sky in Montana, and just recently purchased Loon Mountain in New York, along with Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine. They also own and operate 11 golf courses stretching from Florida to Michigan.
To put that many ski resorts in perspective, on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008, they sold more than 77,000 ski lift tickets in one day. However the electric bill to run the snow making machinery at Loon in New York for just the month of December was $965,000, which helped provide a lot of freedom and fun for a lot of people
Unfortunately we lost Everett six years ago to kidney failure after being on a dialysis machine for 10 years. However, just one week before he died he was deer hunting and shot and killed an eight-point buck with a crossbow.
Everett set the tone, method and style for recycling stuff 60 years ago with purchase of that original Sun Valley ski lift, then the Sugar Bowl lift, and his sons, John and Steve even recycled the Gondola at Squaw Valley. What have you recycled lately?
For more of Warrens’ stories and stuff log onto warrenmiller.net
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